What is Foraminal Narrowing?




The spine, also known as the “backbone”, is a complex and interdependent system composed of cartilage, bones, ligaments, muscles and other tissues. Because the spine supports the weight of the upper body and facilitates movement, it sustains a significant amount of stress and strain throughout a person’s lifetime. When one or more of the components of the spine begins to degenerate, the entire area can become compromised.

Most of the vertebrae in the spinal column have a foraminal canal on both their left and right sides. Through this small canal, nerves are able to leave the spinal cord and travel to other regions of the body. Sometimes, however, the foraminal canal becomes damaged as the result of accident or age. When this occurs, this tiny passageway can begin to narrow, which compresses nerves and causes debilitating symptoms. While many Americans suffer from foraminal narrowing, this condition is usually treatable.

Foraminal Narrowing Causes

Foraminal narrowing often occurs as a part of the natural aging process. However, this deterioration can be intensified or accelerated by several factors, including:

  • Genetic predisposition or congenital defect
  • Progressive diseases such as osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease
  • Obesity or excess weight, which increases tension on the spine
  • Accidents or injuries, such as those that may occur during a high-impact sport, hard fall or motor vehicle accident
  • Repetitively making strenuous movements or having a job that requires highly physical or manual labor
  • Lack of exercise, inactivity or a profession that involves long periods of sitting or standing
  • A foreign object becoming lodged in the foraminal canal, such as a bone spur

If you believe you may be at risk for foraminal narrowing, schedule a consultation with one of our spine specialists to discuss preventative measures and the best ways to obtain life-long spine health. By making mindful decisions and slight alterations in your daily routine, it is often possible to avoid or proactively manage foraminal narrowing.

Foraminal Narrowing Symptoms

The symptoms of foraminal narrowing can vary depending on the location and severity of the canal complication. Some of the most frequently occurring symptoms of foraminal narrowing are:

  • Localized pain and discomfort
  • Radiating pain that affects nearby extremities
  • Tingling and “pins-and-needles” sensations
  • Numbness
  • Muscle weakness
  • An inability to participate in everyday activities such as bending, stretching and rising from rest without encountering symptoms
  • Secondary spine conditions

The symptoms associated with foraminal narrowing can also signify a number of spine-related issues, including the presence of cancerous tumors in the area. To maintain your health, well-being and safety, it is best to speak with a medical professional about your symptoms. At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, our experienced physicians can even use advanced pain-mapping techniques to identify the underlying cause of your discomfort.

If you or a loved one begins to experience bleeding, fever or incontinence of the bladder or bowels in conjunction with spine difficulties, call 911 immediately as a medical emergency may be occurring.

Our Minimally Invasive Treatment Approach

You do not have to accept your foraminal narrowing-related complications as an unalterable aspect of your daily life. Through treatment, it is often possible to correct this condition and regain your quality of life. The team of highly-skilled spine surgeons at Minimally Invasive SpineCARE® is committed to providing patient-centric, innovative care that ensures relief.

The first step to obtaining optimal healing is to schedule a consultation with one of our acclaimed physicians. During your initial visit, your doctor will carefully analyze your medical history and symptoms to attain a comprehensive and accurate diagnosis. In addition to a physical exam, imaging tests such as a CT scan, MRI or X-ray may be conducted. Based upon the information gathered, we will create a personalized treatment plan that is tailored to address both your unique needs and your health history.

Generally, we encourage exploring conservative treatment options before considering surgery. A number of non-invasive methods of care can substantially relieve the pain associated with foraminal narrowing, such as:

Exercise and Physical Therapy: It may seem counterintuitive, but extended periods of bed rest are hardly ever recommended for patients suffering from foraminal narrowing and other spine-related complications. By using moderate exercise to strengthen the abdominal muscles, increase flexibility and lose extra pounds it is possible to reduce the amount of strain upon the spine. Additionally, targeted physical therapy plays a central role in most plans for spine recuperation.

Medication: Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can reduce the amount of inflammation caused by foraminal narrowing, which then allow patients to begin long-term treatments, like physical therapy, with little pain. Localized injections of pain-relieving medicine can also be extremely effective for men and women encountering foraminal narrowing. Sometimes even just one or two injections can provide up to 6 months of relief!

Additional Treatments: Undergoing therapeutic massage, purchasing proper footwear, avoiding lifting heavy objects, maintaining proper posture and making other sensible modifications can quickly and safely address foraminal narrowing. The specific recommendations made will be determined by the severity and location of the affected foraminal canal or canals.

If non-surgical treatments do not provide sufficient relief, surgical intervention may be necessary. Depending on the underlying cause of your foraminal narrowing, surgery may involve removing any material obstructing the canal, such as a bone spur. In other cases, it may be necessary to stabilize the vertebrae by replacing the shock-absorbing cartilage discs with artificial spacers or using state-of-the-art bone graft technology to restructure any deteriorated bone.

At Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, our experienced surgeons specialize in performing minimally invasive surgeries. When compared to traditional open surgeries, minimally invasive procedures usually yield additional benefits that include:

  • Less post-surgical pain
  • Fewer potential complications during and after your procedure
  • A reduced risk of scarring and extensive blood loss
  • Minimal trauma to surrounding muscles and soft tissues
  • Shortened recovery times that grant patients the ability to return to work and other daily activities faster

The surgical approach used will depend on the preferences of the patient, as well as several determining medical factors. Because our surgeons regularly perform both minimally invasive and traditional operations, we are able to efficiently provide the procedure that best treats your unique case of foraminal narrowing.

To learn more about foraminal narrowing or Minimally Invasive SpineCARE®, please do not hesitate to get in touch by calling us directly at 972-255-5588 or by filling out the form on this page. We look forward to speaking with you!

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